I've been avoiding Starbucks for some time now. I used to be a bit of an addict, spending way too much money sucking down venti non-fat iced caramel macchiatos at the slightest provocation. But I'm married to an (extreme) coffee-snob, and pretty soon the lure of truly good coffee got ahold of me. (Seriously, a very recent roasting combined with fresh grinding and proper brewing techniques makes all the difference in the world. I had no idea. But it's amazing.) Starbucks just has no idea how to make a decent cup of actual coffee without drowning it in sugar, cream, and syrup. But even then, I still enjoyed the occasional frou-frou drink from the 'bucks until an unfortunate incident with an uber-dodgy creeper pushed me away forever. (Long story.) But now, after reading some alarming information, I've decided to start whole-heartedly boycotting Starbucks. And perhaps you should consider it too.
You see, Starbucks does not own a fleet of coffee-farming Oompa-Loompas that live in their factories and supply their products. Actual human coffee growers in places like Uganda do the dirty work. Salome Kafuluzi, who lives on a coffee farm with her thirteen children, says "We're broke. We're not happy. We're failing at everything. We can't buy essentials. We can't have meat, fish, [or] rice[...] We can't send the children to school." Because of a dangerous food-distribution bottleneck and a lack of subsistence options for farmers, farmers like these are literally earning 14 cents per kilo of raw coffee beans that they produce. At another step in the assembly line, one of the larger coffee exporters in Uganda is happy to be making a profit of $10 a ton, or 1 cent per kilo on what he exports. Farmers who are actually trying to increase their share of the final price of coffee are finding themselves facing the mighty opposition of the food industry. Ethiopian farmers recently applied to turn their signature coffee bean names - Sidamo, Harar, and Yirgacheffe - into trademarks, a move that might increase their share of the revenue by 25%. They were opposed almost instantly by Starbucks. Acting out of desperation and with a very limited number of ways to keep some food on their tables, these farmers are forced to keep churning out coffee beans to huge companies for an almost nonexistent profit. And too me, that's just not ok. I will not let my desire for a Christmassy peppermint mocha drive me to drop another enabling $5 into Starbucks' lap. They won't receive another dime from me.
So what can you do? Start by chuckin' the 'bucks. Seek out fair-trade coffee products, which means that the people who are growing those beans are being compensated fairly for their labor and products. Visit your local independent coffee shop and ask them questions about where and how their beans are grown. Do they support ethical coffee? If you live in the Columbia area, Peace Love and Rocky Roast is a great option (and right up the road from Starbucks!), and they make a darn tasty cuppa joe. When you buy coffee to brew at home, choose fair-trade. Locally, Indah Coffee Co. sells some of the tastiest beans around at the All Local Farmer's Market. There are delicious, ethical options that you can feel good about investing in all around you if you look for them.
I'm not trying to get all hippy-crunchy-granola on you, but I do think that we need to think before we vote with our dollars on the purchases we make everyday. What are your thoughts?
(All statistics from "Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System" by Raj Patel)